When Cecilia Osorio Menacho made her way to Columbus from Bolivia, so did a family recipe passed down through generations.
Menacho is introducing Columbus to the merengue: a sugar and egg white based treat that is not your average topper on a lemon meringue pie.
Menacho’s family has been in the merengue-making business for over 30 years. In Bolivia, her mother owned a bakery, making meregnues and other cakes for a long list of clients and customers. Menacho studied business administration in school to help her mother go from cottage industry to full blown business. When mom was ready to cut back about six years ago, Menacho made a suggestion: focus solely on merengues. Niching down proved to be successful: there are many bakeries in Bolivia but none that focused just on merengues.
Now, Menacho is bringing that same concept to Columbus with the launch of Solo Merengues. Marrying a Central Ohio Native brought her to the area, where her merengues became a hit with friends and family. She started whipping up the generations-old family recipe out of a love of baking, but a familiar chorus came: you should turn this into a business.
At first Menacho was hesitant to launch a merengue bakery in the States without the help of her family, but her network of supporters encouraged her to bring the unique treat to the Columbus market.
There’s a learning curve to launching in a new city in a new country, “Well, first we have to explain what kind of merengue we have,” Menacho says. This is not the top of a meringue pie, “This is a crunchy merengue.”
The short list of ingredients produces the signature crunch. Gluten-free with their lack of flour, the main ingredients of sugar and egg whites get a boost with natural flavors including vanilla, cinnamon, coffee, lemon and chocolate.
Solo Merengues treats are served with two accompaniments: fresh fruit and whipped cream. Menacho finds the U.S. offers a lineup of fruits not commonly found in Bolivia that are a perfect pairing for merengues.
“For these products we need not very sweet fruits,” she says, favoring options like blueberries, blackberries and strawberries.
The end result is a light, fresh dessert that comes in many forms: cakes, pies, nests, cups and cookies. Cakes hold a crunchy (albeit hard to cut) surprise throughout, pies are formed from a singular layer of merengue with fresh fruit and cream, with the rest of the lineup offering individual portions.
Launching in April of this year, Menacho whips up here merengues from her licensed home kitchen, offering treats for delivery, catering and events.
For more information, visit solomerengues.com.
Photos by Lillian Dent.